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ROUTE ONE

Steven Caulker was once Liverpool’s equivalent of Marouane Fellaini

It's scary that this wasn't even THAT long ago

You can’t pin this one on Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool’s deadly attacking-trident is the envy of every manager in world football.

Jurgen Klopp’s front-three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane fills opposition defenders with unrivalled fear before every game.


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Hug me brother(s)

REUTERS
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Hug me brother(s)

Hold on a second.

When you cast your mind back to 2016, you realise that Klopp wasn’t always the swashbuckling attacking coach who we now know and love.

The former Dortmund man was a far more pragmatic breed. Whisper it softly, but you can actually draw comparisons with Jose Mourinho’s approach.

My G

Reuters
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My G

Just as the Man United boss has an unbreakable bond with Marouane Fellaini, Klopp had his very own ‘go to’ guy.

Admittedly, the German was only a few months into the job at Liverpool. He was still getting to grips with English football.

Presumably he believed that an old fashioned, rough-and-tumble No9 was the in-vogue thing to do in the Premier League?

*Correction.* A No19…

Remember this?

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Remember this?

Steven Caulker, the centre-back, was once Liverpool’s answer to Fellaini.

Klopp, hang your head in shame.

Caulker was a player who had been tipped to reach the very top after emerging as a promising youngster at Spurs.

However, the defender’s career consequently went south and he failed to meet the expectations everyone had of him.

He was almost a Gold Medal winner

Getty - Contributor
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He was almost a Gold Medal winner

Caulker wasn’t willing to go down without a fight though and tried everything to save his flailing career.

That included filling in wherever he was needed. No questions asked, clearly.

After he (somehow) joined the Reds on-loan in January 2016, everyone thought he was arriving to help remedy their defensive crisis.

Go long to the big man

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Go long to the big man

The towering defender couldn’t have been played further from his natural position, instead finding himself leading the line at Anfield.

Caulker was deployed as Liverpool’s most advanced player on three rare occasions in 2016. Klopp was channelling the Sam Allardyce/Chris Samba duo back in the day.

Albeit exclusively from the bench, it was still one of the Premier League’s most bizarre situations.

When you’re drawing 4-4 with Norwich and need a last-minute goal

Reuters
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When you’re drawing 4-4 with Norwich and need a last-minute goal

Caulker’s combined minutes in that position totalled no more than ten sad, lonely minutes.

The defender featured just once in his natural centre-back position, during an FA Cup fourth round tie against West Ham.

He doesn’t strike me as a ball-playing defender

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He doesn’t strike me as a ball-playing defender

Following his move, Caulker revealed he believed his agent was ‘winding him up’ when he phoned to tell him of Liverpool’s interest.

The longest episode of ‘Punk’d’ then continued when Klopp first told him to come on upfront on his debut.

“I thought the gaffer was joking when he said to go up top!” Bantz.

There was no Ashton Kutcher in sight though, only a German who was deadly serious about his instructions.

Pace

Reuters
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Pace

Liverpool fans are quick to ridicule Mourinho for his less than attractive approach.

When in reality their manager wasn’t opposed to dabbling in a bit of route one football.

Talk about a last chance saloon.

Caulker > Salah, Mane, Firmino.


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